Sporting Kansas City is a small market team. However the international recognition, the product we see on the field, and the trophy case certainly don't feel that way.
Peter Vermes and company are mastering the idea of buy low, sell high. We've heard rumors of this club offering huge sums of money to players like Rafael Van der Vaart and possibly even Michael Bradley, but these are not the type of moves that have given this club so much success. Over the years Vermes has continually explained this team's philosophy and how it differs from the likes of NY or LA.
"We're not in the market where we can go ahead spend on one player, a salary of 6, 7, or 8 million dollars a year," Vermes explained Thursday on ExtraTime Radio. "Could we do it based on the wealth of the ownership group? Sure. But it doesn't fit the business model."
The success SKC has seen without the ability to bring in well established players for millions of dollars is why the nickname Trader Pete, is well deserved.
Sporting have made a business of finding diamonds in the rough. They launch careers, they revitalize careers, and they do not hesitate to cut dead weight. Recognizing talent is far more important than throwing money at big names. Vermes will MAKE the big names himself.
The recent departure of Krisztian Nemeth to Qatar has left plenty of fans upset. It is hard to swallow, but the right move nevertheless.
In the six months prior to signing Nemeth, he was without a team. Others had given up on him, but his talent was recognized and it was an opportunity to sign a quality player for a bargain price. Sporting KC got a fan favorite, plenty of goals, and a US Open Cup from Nemo. Without a doubt, more value than his $250,000 salary reflected. They did the right thing in re-examining his contract and were offering him more money. But when things may have turned a bit sour between the two sides, they made a great business move that allowed the player to make the money he wanted.
No transfer fee to bring him here. Just $250K turned into a reported $2 million in one year. Buy low, sell high.
Uri Rosell is obviously another great example. He came over from Barcelona B in 2012 and earned a salary of $98,750. With young player transfers like this, there most likely isn't a real transfer fee. However, money may be exchanged in the form of scouting fees, contract clauses, a signing bonus etc. While it is not clear what they actually bought him for, you can be sure it pales in comparison to the rumored $1.5 million transfer to Lisbon in 2014.
It isn't just finding young international players overseas, they have been able to find success within MLS.
In 2009, Sporting KC traded away Abe Thompson for Kei Kamara. Thompson was playing in the NASL a year later, while Kamara was blossoming into a sensation. It is always hard to nail down exact money when MLS is involved, but Sporting saw two transfer fees from Kei. First at the beginning of 2013 on loan to Norwich City for the remainder of their season, and the second from his move to Middlesbrough at the end of 2013. Both of which were reported to be over $1 million USD. Yes, two hefty fees in one year, from one player. More impressive still, is the fact that they sold perhaps their best player (twice) and were still able to win MLS Cup that year. Buy low, sell high.
Although there has been no sell high ending to Benny Feilhaber's story in KC, he is another reason Trader Pete, is Trader Pete. For two measly draft picks and some allocation money, Sporting got a player who is becoming one of the best to ever wear a KC uniform.
Vermes has been great in buying low from the MLS SuperDraft during a time when many feel as though its purpose is fading. Besler, Zusi, Dwyer, Myers, and Espinoza are all former draftees that are main pieces to the puzzle.
The only way to buy lower than that, is with Homegrown Players. SKC have it covered here as well. Lees Summit native Erik Palmer-Brown was the youngest signing in club history at the age of 16 back in 2013. After paying him about $60k in 2015, Vermes granted the player's wish and loaned him away. The value in this move can come from simply opening a relationship with such a well respected club like FC Porto, or perhaps a full sale of the player at the end of the loan.
As you watch some of your favorite players come and go, it can be difficult. You don't want to be a fan of a team knowing that your best players will soon be elsewhere. Unfortunately in the big picture, this is just a concern with MLS as a whole right now. It's something basically every team will have to deal with while there is a salary cap.
However when you look at Sporting Kansas City, you must see this is not the case. Look at the core of players that have been around for years now. This team is able to make sound business decisions without it being detrimental to the squad.
There is an important line to find here. You can't keep selling fan favorites. On the other hand, showing players that you can bring them in, develop them, and then allow them to pursue bigger opportunities should they come, is a nice way of attracting quality to the league and specifically this club.
I believe Peter Vermes and the rest of the front office have found a great balance. Besler, Zusi, and most recently Mustivar show they will keep important players who are fully focused on being here. Uri and Kei wanted to challenge themselves. Things went a bit south with Nemeth and he wanted more money. Erik Palmer-Brown wanted to broaden his horizons and see what is beyond KC, an urge you have to respect. They have done a really good job of doing what is best for the player and best for the team.
So then, where does all this money go exactly?
This is where the ownership group really comes into the play in this picture. Vermes can recognize the talent and find all the right players, but he praises the ownership group on their policy of how the money is used.
"Any sales on the technical side at the moment, (the owners want to) reinvest it back into the players and the team and the technical side," Vermes explains.
"First thing is I'll try to take the maximum allocation that we're allowed to, based on the transfer, and apply it to the salary cap first and foremost. The money that is left over goes into a bucket and basically MLS holds it in escrow, and its called new value money."
That left over money in the bucket can be used for any number of things from a putting in a new field to academy travel expenses, to spending on players and buying down a DP salary.
Have no fear, Vermes always has his eye on players and is looking to improve the team.
"We have a running list of players that we're constantly looking at and seeing whether it is this window or the next window that we can add them. I would tell you we are aggressively pursuing a few of those targets at the moment," Peter said on Thursday. "And our objective is to add another player here in this window. It's an ongoing process. We have shadow teams with players all over the world that are in our style of play."
So while you try and cope with the loss of your favorite players, you can be rest assured that the next Nemeth, or the next Uri, is not far behind. Perhaps, they have already arrived in players like Jordi Quintilla and Soni Mustivar.
We may not see a big name European star come to KC anytime soon, but Peter Vermes and the Sporting Kansas City front office have proven it's not necessary for success. They make smart business decisions while keeping their brand and their product on the field in the top class of Major League Soccer.
Some moves may be tough from a fan's persepctive, but this is a team that always gives you a reason to be excited about the future.